Matt Moran is a senior news internet journalism and math double major and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The good thing about the finale of March Madness is that the best postseason tournament in professional sports is right around the corner — the National Hockey League playoffs.
While I will concede that there is no better postseason sports tournament than March Madness, the NHL playoffs offer the best postseason out of the four major professional sports in the United States.
The NFL playoffs are great and all, but each round is just one game. In the NBA playoffs, rarely do you see a lower seed make a run all the way to the championship. In the MLB playoffs, only eight teams (well, now 10 teams this year) out of a total of 30 squads get to compete in the postseason.
Here are five reasons why the NHL playoffs offer the best postseason in American sports:
1. A wide-open race
Like the NBA playoffs, the top eight teams in each conference reach the postseason. In the NHL, it is not unheard of for a lower seed to make a long playoff run. Two years ago, the Eastern Conference finals featured the No. 7 seed Philadelphia Flyers and the No. 8 seed Montreal Canadiens. Since 1994, a No. 8 seed has upset a No. 1 seed seven times in the first round.
2. Bitter Rivalries
Say what you want about rivalries in other sports; NHL rivalries are filled with hatred and physical confrontations, and that type of atmosphere is encouraged. While fighting is not common in the postseason, teams are relentless when it comes to pounding players into the boards. When the playoffs roll around, the physicality is turned up a notch. If a team can’t handle the increasingly physical play of the postseason, then it will surely be eliminated early in the tournament.
Goalies are the centerpiece in the NHL playoffs. A goaltender at the top of his game can carry a team to the Stanley Cup finals, and likewise, a goaltender struggling heading into the postseason can contribute to a team’s early exit. Last season, Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins was phenomenal in bringing the Stanley Cup to Beantown. The year before that, Antti Niemi of the Chicago Blackhawks peaked at the right time to help his team win the title.
4. The Stanley Cup
The Stanley Cup is the best trophy in all of sports — hands down. The Cup is inscribed with the names of championship players and teams of the past. Each player on the winning team gets to do whatever they want with the cup for a small period of time. The Stanley Cup has been swimming, has been used as a dog bowl, and has been used for bowls of cereal. What other trophy has been through that?
5. Overtime, Game 7s
When a series is tied at three games apiece, and the deciding game is tied after regulation, then the teams head into sudden death overtime — the first team to score advances to the next round, and the losing team’s season is over. One mistake could end a team’s season. One lucky break can make it. In an overtime game seven, the emotions and stakes are as high as any situation in sports. There is nothing like it.